It would not be overly bold to suggest that Nancy Meyer’s The Holiday has become one of the most beloved Christmas films, and for good reason. It has the corny romance we all crave from a festive movie, there are numerous witty scenes, sharp one-liners and it is filled to the brim with different love stories that are wrapped up in a gorgeous Hans Zimmer soundtrack.
The story sees two women: Cameron Diaz as Amanda who owns a movie advertising company in Los Angeles, and Kate Winslet as Iris, a London journalist, decide to swap homes for the Christmas holidays despite never meeting. They have their own understandable reasons: one is getting space from a cheating partner, and the other realises they need to move on from wishful thinking over a past lover who is getting married to another woman. It is a delightful romantic comedy at its roots that cheers on the idea of making a frantic decision to change up your life and indulges in that warm feeling of meeting someone new.
The film is packed with a star-studded cast, led by Diaz and Winslet, with their love interests coming in the form of Jude Law as book-editor Graham and Jack Black as Miles, a film composer. These creative-centric professionals are positioned to be highly emotionally charged, and yet their feelings and expressions of emotion are surprisingly nuanced. Nancy Meyers eloquently captures the sickening melodrama of unrequited love and the churning uneasy delight of new romances. It presents the awkward sensibility of British mannerisms, matched like a fine wine with the tenacity of the American characters. At the heart of The Holiday are profound relationships that do not rely on the substance of just the ‘girl meets boy’ trope. While Amanda meeting Graham and Iris meeting Miles are the keystone moments in terms of structure, these romantic meet-cutes fall into the shadow of other significant interactions.
The gem of these is between the geriatric Arthur (played by the iconic Eli Wallach) and Iris. She notices him anxiously wandering around the LA boulevard, and decides to offer him a lift home and begins perhaps the most beautiful friendship in the film. There is so much kindness between the pair, each noticing the lack of love and attention in the others’ lives and making a sincere effort to address these sore spots. Iris adoringly listens to his stories of being a writer in Hollywood while helping him with daily chores that have become a struggle, and Arthur gives her a bolstering verbal boot up the backside to take charge of her world and learn to love herself. It demonstrates that age isn’t a barrier in genuine friendships and sometimes it takes flying across the world and bumping into a film industry icon to really get you out of your rut. It is Arthur’s kindness and wit which nudges Miles and Iris together, which shows that even new love needs the wisdom of our elders.
On the flipside, Graham’s relationship with his two young daughters is also a really notable side-story within the film. The girls, Sophie (Miffy Englefield) and Olivia (Emma Pritchard), are incredibly sweet and hypnotically cute, and allow Graham to demonstrate his stellar parenting after having lost his wife two years prior. While he is evidently in a fortunate position, by being able to leave his daughters with his parents while he enjoys a night out with friends, it would be cruel to begrudge him for this freedom.
Widowed and single parents face the complexity of setting a good example to their children and wanting to protect them from the uncertainty of new partners, but also the desire to simply be human and make new connections. Law’s character shows the ability to do both, and we see his maturity in the way he reacts when Amanda turns up at his door and has to speedily explain the situation without breaking face in front of his girls. There is no perfect balance of being a father and a lover, and The Holiday makes us feel like it is ok not to have achieved this, and that good intentions and dedication to his kids is a very wholesome message.
It would also be a disservice not to celebrate the brief but important connection between Iris and Amanda. Together they demonstrate how the decision for two women to trust each other and take a risk by exchanging homes changed their lives. Shot in 2006, the thought of people just happily house swapping for a few weeks at a literal moment’s notice feels a little on the absurd side in 2020, but the notion of trust in each other and themselves to stick to this commitment is admirable.
While the women share very little screen time together, their initial messaging captures them both at very tumultuous and vulnerable points in their lives, where they create a space to just be frank about what they want and support each other’s decisions. It’s a brilliant scene that shows two independent women taking a leap of faith and being a little selfish by literally running away from their troubles and flinging themselves into new situations. They have the freedom to get over their heartache, enjoy casual sex, and actually have some alone time to just sleep, read and watch movies, which is simply joyous. Ultimately, they end up empowering each other to become the leading ladies in their own lives and learn to love themselves again.
With the film having landed on Netflix UK, now is the perfect moment to take time out of our busy lives to curl up with a comfort film that is romantic, funny, and unexpectedly empowering. A nugget of wisdom we could all take from Iris is “I’m looking for corny in my life.” We could all benefit from watching a film that is not only about the enchantment of falling in love, but the significance of love from friends, family, and those around us.